Travel Industry – 2014 Early Boom (17.01.14)
The Tourism sector early 2014 … the feeling is good, and hopefully the living will be easy.
Well certainly across the British tourism industry the present day mood is as optimistic as I can remember in four or five years. There’s a real sense of a bright light visible at the end of a rather long recession-dominated tunnel.
Last week-end I moderated at the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) Annual Domestic Conference, where several hundred delegates, from across a wide range of independent tour operators and travel agencies, all reported an upsurge in early year sales’ figures. In addition, AITO tour operator/travel agency sales are up an impressive 18.5% from £39m to over £47m – as well as AITO’s direct sell tour operators, who are also experiencing an uplift in fortunes.
Further to the trade press reporting these positive economic figures, the independent sector of the UK Tourism market is similarly upbeat as they continue to take a significant lead in the type of holiday the British traveller is taking. Special interest holidays, adventure holidays, activity holidays and bespoke itineraries are becoming ever more popular as the demand for an ‘escape with a difference’, is valued as much as a chance to ‘rest, relax and re-charge’.
Certainly we, at Nomadic Thoughts, continue to notice a move away from the traditional ‘fly & flop’, towards an ‘interest & explore’ style of holiday. Often the road less travelled can suddenly become a popular, sought-after destination. For example this week at Nomadic Thoughts Costa Rica (with 4% of the world’s wildlife) and remoter areas of India (which are perfect at this time of the year) appear to be in particular demand. Ideas change though, and it could easily be East Africa and New Zealand next week.
On a wider scale, early 2014 outbound sales figures are also positive from across the larger mass market travel industry. Online bookings rose 25% last Saturday, with Thomson reporting over 36,000 holiday reservations in one day. Interestingly the advancement in hand held technology also appears to have had an impact on the mainstream package market, with mobile phone reservations up 78%, and tablet booking up an impressive 130%.
Inbound tourism continues to grow on impressive 2013 figures, when visitor numbers rose by 5% up until the end of November – with spending up 11% year-on-year to £1.84bn. By the time December’s figures come in VisitBritain expects a £20bn+ spending record.
Outbound tourism is similar this with a 4% increase in holidays last July and August.
These figure also go hand in hand with the World Tourism Organisation’s prediction that world tourism will grow annually at a rate of 4% year on year, for five years.
More exciting for companies such as Nomadic Thoughts, who specialise in arranging trips to the less mainstream bucket & spade destinations, is that the Office of National Statistic figures show a 7% rise in trips to Eurozone countries and 8% rise to destinations beyond Europe and North America.
This is exciting and heart-warming, especially as this time last year the discussion was more about whether our economy was slipping into triple-dip-recession, rather than upwardly mobile growth rates. There are now even suggestions that Britain could be the “leader of the pack” among the leading G7 industrialised nations.
Globally, tourism also continues to buck the trend with last year’s international tourist arrivals growing 4%, to over 1 billion for the first time. As a result, international tourism generates over US$ 1.3 trillion in export earnings.
Long may this last. And let’s hope that next week’s UNWTO tourism growth figures announcement (20th January) will be just as positive.
Thailand and the Philippines are good examples of how essential tourism can be to a country looking to benefit from economic growth, if inclusive development and environmental sustainability are taken seriously.
Thailand, despite being in the throes of political turmoil, has reported that holiday bookings for the first week in January 2014 are up between 20-40% with top selling tour operators.
Meanwhile the Philippines, so struck by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) two months ago, has received great international support as people realise that the majority of the country is open and available for tourism. Indeed ASEAN has rallied hard to promote the country to foreign visitors.
For destinations such as these, as well as here at home, a buoyant and expanding travel market is greatly vakued. As discussed with many of my fellow AITO colleagues last weekend, it is hoped that the current feeling of optimism, within the relatively small UK independent sector, is replicated on a world scale. The trickle-down effect should be beneficial for all, as UNWTO’s Tourism 2020 Vision forecast of international arrivals approaches 1.6 billion by 2020 – of which 1.2 billion will be intra-regional and 378 million will be travelling long-haul.
From Nomadic Thoughts’ perspective we will surf any wave we can get on, and hope that our relatively humble future end-of-year sales’ figures reflect as positive an early-year growth rate as is being enjoyed elsewhere in the industry.
The present good mood does appear to be with us, and the fish are jumping. Jumping as high as the cotton when you bear in mind we are also only weeks away from the first commercial space flight.